Tiger Woods has shown he can put together a series of sub-par rounds.
Contending in consecutive tournaments has been more difficult.
Woods took small consolation Saturday after his first bogey-free round of the year, mainly because he managed only three birdies at The Northern Trust on a soft Ridgewood Country Club that is yielding plenty of them.
He made a 6-foot birdie putt on his last hole — no sure thing the way his week has been going — for a 3-under 68. That gives him seven birdies for 54 holes.
“That’s not going to get it done,” Woods said. “As soft as it is, these guys are making a boat load of birdies. And I just haven’t made any.”
It wasn’t a lack of chances.
Woods missed six birdie putts from about 12 feet or closer. He has hit nine out of 14 fairways all three rounds, and he rarely was out of position when he did miss the greens in the third round. He’s just not seeing many putts go in, mainly because he says he can’t get the right line with the right speed.
On a few occasions, he’s asked caddie Joe LaCava to help read the putts. It hasn’t mattered.
“I’m just not seeing the lines this week,” Woods said. “Just the way it goes. I’ve called Joey in a few times this week. ‘Joey, I see three different breaks here.’ He said, ‘Yeah, so do I.’ I’m hitting in these spots where I’ve had double-breakers, if not triple-breakers, and I’m just not seeing or feeling correctly through those areas.”
Such is golf. Woods chalked it up on more than one occasion to “one of those weeks.”
But it extends a peculiar pattern this year of looking as though he were on the verge of winning, and then taking a step back.
He had two straight weeks at the end of the Florida swing where he got within one shot of the lead on the back nine, and then he showed up at the Masters and finished in the middle of the pack. Woods showed plenty of momentum at The Players Championship (65-69 weekend) and the Memorial (67-68 in the middle two rounds), and then he missed the cut at the U.S. Open.
One week after he briefly had the lead in the final round at the British Open, he tied for 31st at Firestone on a course where he has won eight times. He was runner-up at the PGA Championship in his most recent start, and now is playing for little more than pride or FedEx Cup points.
Woods finished two hours before the leaders — Brooks Koepka and Jamie Lovemark — even teed off.
His 68 at least allowed him to sleep in a little more on Sunday for the final round, though Woods all but conceded he was out of it. His hope was to finish at 10 under, which would mean a 64 in the final round. That would at least give him some good vibes going to the TPC Boston, where he won 12 years ago.
“I think that would be a nice way to end the week,” he said. “It’s not going to win, but at least I can get some good momentum going into Boston.”
He started the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 20, and with only 30 players advancing to the Tour Championship, he still has some work left.